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How to update your guests about your pandemic wedding plans

August 29, 2020, 11:00 AM UTC

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Seven days before her wedding, Jacqueline Lachevre lost her venue. And the caterer. And the string quartet. While some couples were able to reschedule their wedding for next year and keep their same date, that wasn’t an option for the Lachevres; her then-fiancé, Alexander, is a surgeon who works on 12-month contracts. If they pushed the wedding back exactly one year, they’d have to get married in an unfamiliar state only to pack it all up and move again.

Before deciding to get married in July, like many brides at the beginning of the pandemic Lachevre wasn’t sure what to do. To keep her guests in the loop while she considered a plan B––and a plan C, D, and E–– Lachevre mailed a card to her guests, the first line in large letters: “We still do.”

“Due to COVID-19, we have decided to cancel our wedding until further notice,” it read, “Thank you for your overwhelming support and love. We hope to be able to celebrate together in the future, and we’ll be in touch if we are able to set a new date. Stay safe, Jacqueline and Alexander.”

The Vermont bride is one of many dealing with the upset that the pandemic has caused across the wedding industry. According to spokesperson Emily Forrest, digital wedding planning and registry website Zola has seen nearly 75% percent of its couples with a 2020 summer date adjust their wedding ceremonies to stick to their original date.

“Of these couples, a large number are getting married in an intimate ceremony now but hosting a big party later on,” Forrest explains. “This new two-part wedding has fondly been dubbed wedding part one and wedding part two by our Facebook Community. Overall, we have seen a huge shift from spring couples who all postponed completely to a renewed sense of willingness to get married in some way.”

No matter their choice, updating guests about changes––and in some cases, uninviting them––is just as hard.

After the initial wedding update, COVID cases around the U.S. continued to rise, and that made the decision for the Lachevres: “We really wanted to close that chapter of our lives and start this next chapter as a married couple.” The couple said I do during an intimate, outdoor ceremony in July.

When Lizzie Post, the great-great-granddaughter of etiquette legend Emily Post, received Lachevre’s notice about her wedding changes, she says she cheered up reading it, rather than feeling like she was uninvited from the celebration.

“It felt more like I was witnessing someone having to make a change to their plan, and it was really understandable,” says Post, an etiquette specialist and copresident of the Emily Post Institute. “I didn’t worry about it. It didn’t make me feel bad. That was really classy.”

Post says it’s a good example of how to update guests because it’s clear and doesn’t get caught up in the explanation. If a couple has to postpone their wedding, here’s an easy guide to follow: “Due to the pandemic, we are going to postpone our wedding. We have rescheduled for this date. We are so pleased to be able to keep our guest list intact, and we would love for you to be able to join us,” Post says.

The soon-to-wed couple should also include a note that shows they understand the new date may upset already made travel plans.

“I think it’s a nice acknowledgement of the fact that when you change a date, you might lose some people who would have been able to come otherwise,” she says.

Keep it cheery, she explains, and end on a positive note by writing something like, “We are really looking forward to celebrating in a way that’s safe and comfortable for everyone.”

When dealing with out-of-town guests during a pandemic, safety becomes the operative word. One addition to your intimate ceremony’s guest list can become two or more family members, while best friends vie for a front-row seat at your big day. To keep things simple and socially distanced, Post says, avoid negotiating with loved ones and lean on the commitments that you’ve chosen to make for yourself and the safety of your guests.

“Use that as your firm line. You can say, ‘I’m really sorry, Uncle Ben, but we made a commitment that we were only going to invite this many people, and we really weren’t going to expand beyond it. I would love to invite you to the Zoom call and celebrate with you once we’re able to later, but I’ve got to stick to the rules we’ve set,’” Post advises.

Katelyn Stanis, owner of vow writing company Wedding Words, had to cut her own guest list down from 100 to 15. Although wedding news is usually delivered through the mail, Stanis says emailing your guests about announcements has become more widely accepted, especially during these unprecedented times. And for the people you’re close to? Speak directly to them.

Here’s an example from the professional vow writer on how to update your guest list:

“We are reaching out to communicate how COVID-19 and state restrictions have caused us to change our wedding day plans. For the health of everyone, we can no longer safely host the ‘150’-person wedding we originally planned. Instead, we’ll be getting married on ‘November 7th’ with our immediate families and the wedding party. As you can imagine, we’re extremely disappointed that we’re unable to have you there, but we also know that your health is more important. We’ll miss celebrating with you and hope that we can cheers over a good glass of wine together sometime in the future.”

Zola’s wedding expert Emily Forrest suggests that couples have an honest conversation early in their planning about if, how, and when they can have the wedding of their dreams. Although guests might feel left out, Forrest says, it is completely acceptable for couples to decrease their guest count, to ask loved ones to tune in virtually, or to require that guests wear masks––it’s their wedding, after all.

If your friend or family member has to postpone, Forrest recommends scheduling a phone date with them, offering to help contact guests, and sending them a gift on their original wedding date to make them feel special. And for the couples themselves, Forrest says, all of this newfound time at home can be used to create a dream registry with a glass of wine in hand or to order some cake for an at-home tasting.

“I have spoken with couples who feel like they don’t deserve to be sad because they are in good health and in an okay financial situation, but postponing a wedding is sad,” she says. “Loved ones should be supporting couples.”